A mother of two, Fatima Muhammed lost her husband to the abuse of methylene chloride, a dangerous colorless chemical used in the paint and metal industry and inhaled and abused by some Nigerians.
Mrs Muhammed said her husband had been an abuser turned trafficker until his death. But her husband is not the only one who has a habit of abusing this deadly liquid. His brother-in-law was also disabled by the abuse.
“My husband hated seeing his brother take substances,” she recalled. “Every time he saw her he beat her. But even though my husband abused him, his younger brother continued to use the substance.’
One day, he went into his brother-in-law’s room to give him food, but he found it awkward. He tried to wake up to eat, but there was no response.
“I felt his pulse, I discovered that he was no longer breathing. I looked around, then I saw the substance in his hand.’
Shortly after her brother-in-law’s death, she was abused by her husband.
One day, he said he went into the bathroom and didn’t want to come out. Alarmed, Mrs Muhammad went into the bathroom to check on him, only to find her husband “looking like a dump with the substance in his hand”.
“A few days later, he fell ill but refused to go to the hospital,” he said.
“After observing for a while, we realized that the disease was the result of inhaling methylene chloride. We managed the disease for a few days before he finally died. The doctor told us that he died of substance abuse.’
‘Sukurdai’: Killing slowly
In northern Nigeria, one of the most commonly consumed substances is methylene chloride known as ‘Sukurdai’ among the local population. There is no official record of the number of people killed by drugs, but abuse and deaths have been reported in Kano, Adamawa, Gombe, Borno and Bauchi states, a PREMIUM TIMES investigation found.
“Overuse of methylene chloride can cause lung cancer,” said Hassana Abubakar Liman, a doctor at the Aminu Kano Hospital in Kano. In addition to the respiratory system, he explained that it can affect the liver and almost all human organs. Inhalation and oral use allow exposure to large doses, meaning that many are excreted in the human body.
When it reaches the heart, it causes “arrhythmia,” a condition known as an irregular heartbeat.
“The heart must beat regularly to pump blood throughout the body and deliver oxygen at a certain time, but when it is irregular, too fast or too slow, organs that depend on oxygen like the brain, the heart itself can be deprived of oxygen and can lead to death,” said Liman. ladies.
Senior Resident Psychiatrist at Kano Hospital, Hajiya Shehu Aminu has dealt with cases of patients abusing methylene chloride. But none were as frustrating as the case of a 14-year-old boy who was taken to his hospital, he said.
“The boy had seizures. mother [who brought her] he described how his son saw things and was scared before the convulsion started,” the psychiatrist told PREMIUM TIMES. “After taking a lot of detail, we realized that his shirt smells of methylene chloride. We also learned that the boy overdosed himself and depressed the central nervous system of the brain. It has affected his mental order.’
Confession of a teenage addict
A few months ago on the streets of Kano, PREMIUM TIMES saw Aliyu, a 15-year-old boy in the Sabon Gari area of Kano State, inhaling Methylene Chloride.
“My parents are here in Kano, but I don’t live with them,” said the teenager in an interaction with our reporter, who acted as a potential abuser. “Every time I take this chemical, it makes me forget my sadness and feel awesome.”
Aliyu inhaled the substance stored in a polythene bag of clean water with every drop of speech.
A few kilometers away, in the Dawakin Dakata area, several other young boys were seen inhaling the deadly liquid in an open space.
This journalist met Sani Roget, one of the drug addicts in the area; it was impossible to have a civilized conversation with him because he was under the influence of the colorless liquid and still adding to his dose. Very drunk – and obviously out of his mind – the young man described himself as a ‘Roget movie star’.
Drunk on the substance, of course, he stood in front of the reporter’s camera and took on the role of an artist, singing, dancing and clowning according to his attitude.
Inside the black market in Kano, where ‘sukurdai’ is sold
The excellent liquid sukurdai appears very scarce in grocery stores, but abusers and traders know where the substance is available to regular customers. Jakara Yan Kaba market in Kano is one such place. The market is notorious for raising children and teenagers addicted to substances like Methylene Chloride.
These children are lured into abusing this dangerous substance in the recycling business section of the market, an investigation by PREMIUM TIMES – based on interviews with addict residents and children in the state – has revealed. This is also a starting point for participation in criminal activities.
Abdullah Mai Kano, also known as Sarkin Kasuwa Yan Kaba, translated as head of the recycling market, said a child in his care—his relative—was addicted to methylene chloride. And this quickly led to his early death.
“I have seen people die from using this chemical,” he told PREMIUM TIMES. “We are doing our best together with the police, but we cannot do it alone without the support of parents and the government.”
But how do these substances get into Kano and other northern states since they are not manufactured there?
Journey to the unregulated world of ‘Sukurdai’ in Lagos
Although it was difficult to trace the production and supply of this deadly chemical to a specific company, our investigation led this reporter to an unregulated market in the Mushin area of Lagos.
Delving further, PREMIUM TIMES learned that the market that served as a distribution center for Sukurdai was difficult to penetrate as distributors of the substance operate undercover to hide their illegal businesses and identities.
But a member of the secret syndicate would later agree to link the journalist to a black market area in the city. On a scheduled date, the reporter dressed up in a costume tailored for a drug dealer, on the recommendation of his guide.
Disguised as potential buyers from Kano, PREMIUM TIMES, from Mushin Centre, Sukurdai’s main distribution center is located on Ojo Giwa Street in Tinubu area of Lagos Island. From there, the product is packaged and distributed to various parts of the country.
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On arrival at the market in Tunibu, after exchanging casual greetings, one of the main distributors of the substance, who only identified himself as Usman, examined this reporter posing as a new customer. As arranged, the reporter’s guide told the suspected seller that he met our reporter at Alaba International market in the state and that they were business partners.
“I used to buy the product from Canon, but the price has gone up in the last few days,” the journalist-buyer told the seller.
“Don’t worry, your friend told us everything,” replied Usman the seller. “Do you want a drum or a 25 liter container? I will leave the drum at N350,000, and the 25 liters at N48,000”.
“We have someone in the luxury park who usually takes the product everywhere in the North, such as Gombe, Kano, Taraba and Adamawa, and we do business with a lot of people from those places.”
To follow the process of the division of Kano and Adamawa, this reporter got Sukurdai in Tinubu. A passenger bus driver was arranged by Mr. Usman to take the ‘merchandise’ to Kano the next day. This journalist also joined the trip as a passenger. During the almost 24-hour journey from Lagos to Kano, our reporter witnessed how the driver moved freely without control, rescuing suspected anti-drug agents on the highways.
The trip was uneventful.
‘Sukurdai – abusive but unregulated’
Although drug abuse has been a hot topic in northern Nigeria, Sukurdai is hardly given any attention.
It is the agency responsible for checking the use and trafficking of illegal drugs in Nigeria National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). However, a spokesperson of the agency told PREMIUM TIMES that the agency, despite being aware of Sukurdai, is not arresting users or distributors of the product.
Femi Babafemi, the Director of Media and Advocacy at the NDLEA headquarters in Abuja, said methylene chloride is a regulated substance in some parts of the world, but he is not aware of any regulations that put limits on the substance in Nigeria.
“It’s been banned in other places like the US and it’s being controlled in other jurisdictions, it’s being controlled globally. [But] it is not yet regulated here (in Nigeria),” he said.
Mr. Babafemi also said that the NDLEA is dealing with illegal drug users, but in the case of methylene chloride, “it is not within our jurisdiction”.
He added that any substance that is being misused attracts the full weight of the law, whether through arrest or not
“What we know about this chemical is that it is a precursor chemical; its composition is used to produce products such as paint, electronics and bathroom products,” he said.
“It is also used to produce pharmaceutical products. That’s why it still has free movement, because there is no authority to judge any abuse but when we see it in large numbers, we suspect its use and seize it.’
“This story was made possible with support from the Tiger Eye Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation.”
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